Champions elect Shamrock Rovers edged to within five points of their first SSE Airtricity League title in nine years with a commanding performance to overcome Sligo Rovers at Tallaght Stadium.
Unbeaten domestically now in over a year, Stephen Bradley's side move 11 points clear at the top of the Premier Division table ahead of second-placed Bohemians’ derby at Shelbourne on Saturday evening with the Hoops having four games to play.
While Rovers were unchanged from their 4-0 win at outgoing champions Dundalk last Sunday, Sligo manager Liam Buckley made one change from Tuesday's home win over Derry City.
Will Seymore came into midfield wearing the captain’s armband as regular skipper David Cawley, though back from suspension, had to be content with a place on the bench.
Having beaten them 3-2 at the Showgrounds back in March, Rovers took the game to their visitors from the start, but had to work hard to find holes in Sligo’s solid shape early on.
That said, poor defending and a goalkeeping howler gifted Rovers the lead on 13 minutes.
Liam Scales, Neil Farrugia and Aaron Greene worked the ball in from the left to skipper Ronan Finn, whose run into the area wasn’t tracked.
Finn controlled the ball before turning and striking a tame enough low shot which Sligo keeper Ed McGinty looked set to take comfortably into his body on the ground.
Inexplicably, though, McGinty, called up to Jim Crawford’s Republic of Ireland under-21 squad earlier in the day, allowed the ball to squirm through his legs and over the line.
The goal opened the game up with Sligo having a couple of half chances through Ryan De Vries and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe before Graham Burke fired over the top back at the other end.
Greene should then have done better than scuff his shot wide just past the half hour following clever play on the left from Farrugia, who nutmegged Darragh Noone to set him up.
Dominating the ball now, Rovers duly doubled their lead on 39 minutes with a sublime goal.
Jack Byrne, back in Stephen Kenny’s senior Ireland squad, delivered an audacious diagonal ball over the top. Burke stole in behind Garry Buckley, killed the ball with a deft touch to finish emphatically off his left foot.
With the home side rampant, McGinty redeemed his early mistake with a terrific diving save from an Aaron McEneff drive while then saving well with his feet to deprive Greene after another delightful through ball from Byrne put him in on goal.
The frame of the goal would thwart Greene’s thumping shot 10 minutes into the second before Rovers extended their lead on 58 minutes.
Burke and Farrugia combined incisively down the left for the former to lay the ball off for Byrne who took a touch and then drilled a left-footer across McGinty to the far corner of the net.
In a bizarre moment, Byrne received a yellow and on the touchline at the dugout for having walked off the field without permission with what appeared to be a slight injury prior to a triple substitution on 74 minutes.
Rovers added their fourth goal four minutes later. Rhys Marshall skipped past Buckley to cross for fellow substitute Dylan Watts to side foot home.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Lee Grace, Joey O’Brien (Sean Kavanagh 74), Liam Scales; Ronan Finn (Rhys Marshall 74), Gary O’Neill, Aaron McEneff, Neil Farrugia (Danny Lafferty 79); Jack Byrne (Dylan Watts 74), Graham Burke; Aaron Greene (Dean Williams 79).
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; Darragh Noone, Kyle McFadden, Garry Buckley (David Cawley 81), Teemu Penninkangas; Will Seymore, Niall Morohan; Jesse Devers (Alex Cooper 64), Ryan De Vries (Lewis Banks 64), Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe; Ronan Coughlan.
Referee: Damien MacGraith (Mayo).